Deception of Ease

I like to do things in person. I would rather talk to someone face-to-face than over the phone. I usually prefer to go inside to see bank tellers over the drive-thru or using electronic banking. Despite the many advantages of telecommunications technology, there is nothing that beats the charm of doing things, “the old fashioned way.”

But there is at least one glaring exception to this sentiment: checking out at the grocery store. When I’ve filled up my basket with sustenance for the week, I walk straight past the traditional check-out lanes with their conveyor belts and little divider thingies, and go for the self check-out kiosks instead.

There are obvious reasons for this choice. The self check-out has the image of speed and ease. I go to the self check-out stand thinking it will be quick and easy and I won’t have to wait in line. In reality, it is rarely as quick or easy as I expected. As confused customers cannot properly price their celery and need assistance, an awkward line forms that is far worse than any of the lines at the normal check-out lanes.

Line in the Red Square

At least it’s not Soviet Russia.

The self check-out seems like it should be easy, but this is a deception. It can actually be a very high-pressure, stressful situation. When you are at the self check-out, there is an unsaid expectation to be fast and know exactly what you are doing. People who are going for the quick and easy option are not always the most patient or understanding. The only thing worse than standing in the awkward, backlogged line is being the cause of it.

You are going about your business, scanning and bagging your items as fast as possible, when you accidentally press a wrong button and the message appears on the screen, both annoying and shameful, “an attendant has been notified to assist you.” All you can do is wait for the so-called assistance to arrive while the people in line are glaring at you, the stupid person who made the speedy check-out so slow.


Pictured: The Great Grocery Riot of 1893. Caused by an early self-checkout kiosk.

Experience tells me the idea of the self check-out being somehow superior to its older counterpart is obviously a myth. Many times I have gone to the self-check out and noticed the traditional lanes were somehow moving faster than the more modern option. When you go to the self check-out, you are saying you can do the job better than people who are trained to do it, but this is just not true. Cashiers are better than customers at their jobs, therefore the self check-out is neither quick nor easy and you still have to wait in line.

The simple truth is I just don’t want someone looking at all the things I buy and making silent judgments. Not that I am buying anything bad or suspicious, but I can still imagine the cashier thinking, “Really? You’re going to eat nothing but Lucky Charms and cream soda for a week?”


Hey, I bought some other necessities as well…